July 22, 2010
VANDALS and arsonists who deliberately target Bahrain’s electricity network are costing the country more than BD100,000 every year, the GDN has learnt.
Authorities are now in the process of removing overhead power lines and replacing them with underground cables, putting the power network out of the reach of rioters.
They are also refurbishing substations, making them harder for vandals to penetrate.
“We are removing all wooden coverage from substations in order to make them less prone to catch fire,” Electricity and Water Authority (EWA) chief executive Dr Abdulmajeed Al Awadhi told the GDN.
“We are placing iron gates on them and even though it costs more, it’s worth it because in the long run they will be protected from any future vandalism.”
“This is the direct result of the riots that are happening in Bahrain.”
In the meantime, the EWA is appealing for communities to intervene and prevent such attacks, saying innocent people suffer when substations, pylons and streetlights are targeted.
“These acts of sabotage harm the community as a whole – they do not just destroy electricity boxes, forcing the government to pay extra money to repair them,” added Dr Al Awadhi.
“The rioters usually target substations, overhead cables and streetlights.
“Torching all these power transmissions will create a short circuit, leading to complete blackouts in the area.”
He said the cost of repairing such equipment was more than BD100,000 a year, adding the money could be better spent elsewhere.
“When rioters torch a substation, it costs us around BD10,000, while we lose over BD3,000 when streetlights are attacked and another BD25,000 when overhead cables are destroyed,” explained Dr Al Awadhi.
“We don’t have the exact costs, but annually we pay over BD100,000 to repair the damage these vandals commit.
“Each overhead cable is 50 metres long and when they destroy 50 cables, then the costs are immense.”
He revealed vandals were risking their own lives in attacks on the power grid, often pulling down overhead electricity lines with crude homemade lassos.
“The vandals take a rope, tie a stone to it and throw it on the overhead cables before pulling them down,” he explained.
“First of all, this is dangerous and secondly they cut the cables, which causes a power blackout in the area.”
He said the damage did not just affect the national budget, but also placed a strain on government manpower – since maintenance teams have to be sent out to repair the damage.
“These actions place pressure on manpower because I have to deploy dozens of my employees to the site each time something like this happens,” said Dr Al Awadhi.
“The second one of our substations are attacked, we have to go there and restore it which takes time, effort and a lot of hard work.
“This affects our flow of work because my employees have to work overtime, I have to call in contractors to fix the problem and pay for the spare parts.
“On top of that our work disturbs the traffic flow.”
Dr Al Awadhi is now calling on communities to educate young people about the consequences of attacking public property.
“Raising awareness is very important because these vandals should know that when they torch electricity boxes they are not just harming the government, but their families as well,” he said.
“Their friends and families live in these areas and they are left without electricity for hours until we fix it. These are their homes – why would they do this?
“It is the responsibility of everyone in the community because only with mass effort can we reach our youth.
“Raising awareness can be done through education, media, speeches in mosques and political movements.
“From our side, we always try to advocate the importance of keeping public property safe because it has a negative effect on the community when it is vandalised.
“We also try to fix the problem immediately so that we show citizens and these saboteurs that Bahrain is thinking of the interest of its people and their comfort first.”
He revealed the process of removing overhead power lines and replacing them with underground cables had been ongoing for the past five years.
“We have been working on this for the past five years and it will not happen overnight,” he added.
“The project is conducted on the sidelines of renovating Bahrain’s roads.
“As workers fix the streets in each area, we step in and remove the overhead power transmissions and place them underground.
“By placing the cables underground, we make them safe from vandals who know they can’t reach them, because it’s very dangerous as the cables don’t have protective installations.
“We have also completed 50 per cent of moving the internal components of street lights into substations for more protection.”
The GDN reported last week that youths who torched tyres on Bahrain’s roads were unleashing a potentially deadly cocktail of toxic chemicals into the air, which could lead to cancer and other serious illnesses.